How to adapt to XL2 ergonomics and focusing? at DVinfo.net

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Canon XL and GL Series DV Camcorders
Canon XL2 / XL1S / XL1 and GL2 / XM2 / GL1 / XM1.


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Old September 15th, 2004, 09:46 AM   #1
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How to adapt to XL2 ergonomics and focusing?intellegent discussion please.

Okay....I would like some input on how to adapt to using this camera coming from a DVX100 style of camera. I am strictly talking about functionality and not image quality. For example...I know that a shoulder mount camera should add a great amount of stability to a shot. However I am actually finding it less stable at this time and restricting. Also.....with the DVX100 I found so many innovative and creative ways to shoot at strange and interesting angles becauase of its size and 3.5" LCD. I found myself with the XL2 feeling limited and shooting almost everything from the shoulder position and watching the footage and thinking it looks....well... a bit boring.

Obviouisly most professional and really artistic films are shot using shoulder mount cams or even dolly or tripod mount. So I know it can be done and realize that I need to adapt. But what steps do I need to take to have the freedom that I had with the DVX?

Also....one other issue I would like to touch on is the focusing. I have a hard time telling when I am in perfect focus on some shots. The viewfinder is not as hi res as I'd like and the lens ring on the barrel of the lens is touchy. What I mean is if I even move it a little it can go just out of focus one way and if I move it a little back it jumps out of focus the other way. Therefore a lot of the footage I shot has the look that the cameraman can't focus! Coming from the DVX I never had to deal with this as the focus ring feels and reacts different and the LCD made it obvious I if I was in focus or not.

I had this issue with the XL1 also but apparently in time I mastered it as I have plenty of awsome shots from those days that don't have focusing issues. But having used the DVX I am having a hard time adapting to all of the changes.....not image quality but just physical changes in size and shape and the way the mechanics of the lens-viewfinder work.

I'd like an intelligent discussion and no flaming of any cameras. Also....budgetary constraints mean that I cannot go buying a manual lens or the FU1000 to make up for the issues I am experiencing. I need tips and techniques to get used to using the default kit and getting the consistent focus and creative results that I can so easily pull off with the DVX. Because while I admit the XL2 has a big difference in picture quality and resolution over the DVX in 16x9......I am having a hard time justifying the purchase if the ergonomics and focus ring style limit my creativeness and ability to shoot quality footage.

Feel free to enlighten me on overcoming some of these issues.
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Old September 15th, 2004, 10:01 AM   #2
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I find myself holding the camera by the handle with index finger in the grip indent and thumb on the zoom control/start-stop button.

This allows much better camera angles and allows your body and arm movement to act as a mini jib arm/dolly.

I tend to use this position much more than the from the shoulder.
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Old September 15th, 2004, 10:03 AM   #3
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<<<-- Originally posted by Greg Milneck : I find myself holding the camera by the handle with index finger in the grip indent and thumb on the zoom control/start-stop button.

This allows much better camera angles and allows your body and arm movement to act as a mini jib arm/dolly.

I tend to use this position much more than the from the shoulder. -->>>

From that position I am assuming that you have the Viewfinder flipped up into the LCD position. How can you tell if focus is perfect or are you using a field monitor for that?
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Old September 15th, 2004, 10:09 AM   #4
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This may seem silly, but the first issue for focus is to make sure your eyes are OK. I am old enough to have some issues with near vision. I have to put the viewfinder diopter adjust to the end of its range (slider all the way to the left) and I am not sure that the viewfinder image is really in focus.

When I filp the viewfinder eyepiece out of the way and use the bare LCD to focus (with glasses on) and then flip the viewfinder eyepiece back the image (glasses off) looks just a bit out of focus . . . frustrating. I wonder if there is a way to adjust the diopter adjustment . . .
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Old September 15th, 2004, 10:16 AM   #5
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It's tough to tell if you have perfect focus and it's not always possible to have a field monitor so the way I do it with just a VF is to get critical focus by zooming all the way in (or as much as I can) on my subject, focusing, and then zooming back out to my desired composition. This is assuming the back focus of the lens is acceptable.

If I don't have a good field monitor and I can't get a critical focus for some reason -- this is my last ditch attempt -- I rotate the focus ring backwards and forwards at a constant speed (on those lens that are speed-sensitive) to find where the subject ISN'T in focus and then eventually settling somewhere between those two points. It doesn't sound optimal and it isn't but this method has saved some of my shots.
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Old September 15th, 2004, 10:17 AM   #6
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<<<-- Originally posted by Peter Wiley : This may seem silly, but the first issue for focus is to make sure your eyes are OK. I am old enough to have some issues with near vision. I have to put the viewfinder diopter adjust to the end of its range (slider all the way to the left) and I am not sure that the viewfinder image is really in focus.

When I filp the viewfinder eyepiece out of the way and use the bare LCD to focus (with glasses on) and then flip the viewfinder eyepiece back the image (glasses off) looks just a bit out of focus . . . frustrating. I wonder if there is a way to adjust the diopter adjustment . . . -->>>

Nope. Doesn't sound silly at all. I thought of that. And the last eye exam I had was several years ago and I had 20/20 vision then. However my partner shot with it for an hour and hated it! He had the XL1 for years also and his biggest complaint was the viewfinder and being able to tell critical focus. He thought the XL2 viewfinder was better but still too low res to judge anything.

I know that a field monitor is critical most of the time but for some music videos and field work where you want to be spontaneous this becomes a problem.

Thanks
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Old September 15th, 2004, 10:28 AM   #7
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<<<-- Originally posted by Kevin Triplett : It's tough to tell if you have perfect focus and it's not always possible to have a field monitor so the way I do it with just a VF is to get critical focus by zooming all the way in (or as much as I can) on my subject, focusing, and then zooming back out to my desired composition. This is assuming the back focus of the lens is acceptable.>>>


The only problem with this technique is that it assumes that the you are shooting a scripted event. In other words at an important event where people are moving and walking around and it is important to catch the moment I cannot take the time to stop, zoom all the way in, focus, and zoom back out to frame my shot. This is unnacceptable in an event video environment where the action is non stop and you are filming constantly. The DVX focus seems much easier therefore I have had very little out of focus shots with it. This is a major concern for me with the XL2 as it will be used in event videography as well as scripted commercials and dramatic pieces.
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Old September 15th, 2004, 02:26 PM   #8
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I found the XL2 to be a pretty good camera but the weight distribution is not desirable at all.

It is very difficult (and painful) to shoot handheld on the shoulder mount. My right wrist is still sore 2 days later after only 90 minutes of handheld work. It is very hard to believe that a great company like Canon could make a field camera that is so badly balanced both left to right and front to back.

They give you a metal plate to add a wireless mic on the back. You almost have to put something very heavy on the back just to balance the thing out. They could have designed XL2 to be much more shoulder friendly but they chose looks and packaging instead of user functionality.
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Old September 15th, 2004, 03:29 PM   #9
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This is more of a question than an answer. I am a DVX100a user and have been looking into possibly renting an XL2 for future projects. Does the Xl2 have a peaking circuit like the 100a? I find that focusing with the 100a and using the peaking circuit to be almost an absolute must, especially when shooting with the anamorphic adapter. It is amazing how accurate a focus you can get by just using the peaking meter. If the Xl2 does not have this, does anybody know if it could be possible as a future software upgrade, given the ability of this camera to have such upgrades, or is it an actual hardware ciruit that causes the "peaking" image at exact focus. Thanks for your input.
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Old September 15th, 2004, 03:52 PM   #10
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I don't know exactly what peaking is or does. However I have read the XL2 manual from front to back numerous times and have never heard mention of it. For what it's woth I don't think it has this feature.
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Old September 15th, 2004, 04:37 PM   #11
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it's a detail enhancer that sharpens the image only in the viewfinder and in the LCD, it is NOT recorded to tape.

...very usefull for safe 100% in focus all the time.
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Old September 15th, 2004, 04:44 PM   #12
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i am almost positive that peaking is not available on the stock VF... but if it is really needed (and it does help in tough focus situations), it is available on the FU1000 BW one... but then again that is another grand or so...
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Old September 15th, 2004, 04:51 PM   #13
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Ouch, well, maybe the rental house will include the BW viewfinder for FREE.
Then again most of my work I use a 16:9 hi-res monitor, so it's not that big a deal, but it sure is a nice feature to have, even if I am still just using my lowley DVX100a.
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Old September 15th, 2004, 05:27 PM   #14
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One thing I ran into with my XL-1 for helping with focus. Laugh if you will, but it works for me.

I tend to run the camera in full manual mode. What I do is take the exposure meter up a notch or so past center using the iris. The XL-1 zebra bars were fixed at 100IRE and I found that a 'specular highlight' of an object in your shot would only zebra when you are in focus. Just rotating the focus ring back and forth will make the zebra come and go as you scatter, then focus, the light entering the lense. This method is really for when you have the luxury of setting up the shot and then holding it for whatever time necessary after you shut the iris back down a bit.

I haven't done this with the XL-2 yet, and I'm thinking if you dropped the zebra level down, you could tend to keep optimal exposure while still getting the effect mentioned above.

Just experiment...as always YMMV.

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Old September 16th, 2004, 07:07 PM   #15
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For event videography where you're trying to follow a subject that moves closer and farther from the camera, you'll have to either rely on auto focus or momentary AF (push-AF) (IME the AF feature tends to works well on the XL when you have good light and the subject is close to being in focus) or use the two methods posted here (overexposed zebra or bracket focusing).

Yes, the VF peaking function of the DVX100a rocks. Wish the XL2 had it.
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